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enjoyment and to distance ourselves from
situations we find unpleasant – even minor
ones, like being stuck in a traffic jam.
According to Buddhist psychology,
this basic impulse is a characteristic feature
of our mind. Until we have become a
truly extraordinary meditator, we will see
everything we experience through this
Where does happiness come
If we are all always looking for happiness
it is very important to understand where
happiness really comes from. That way,
we can move in the direction of happiness.
For example, if we travel to the north
looking for the cause of happiness and the
cause of happiness is actually in the south,
then we will be wasting our time!
There are two main possibilities for
the source of happiness. The first is that
happiness comes from external things
such as pleasant people, wealth, beautiful
places or objects. The second possibility
is that happiness comes from an internal
source, namely the mind.
If we check up it is easy to see that the
mind is the main cause of our happiness.
There are many cases of people who have
great material wealth, but whose lives are
not happy. Princess Diana’s tragic life is
an example. On their wedding day people
often regard their new husband or wife
as almost perfect, the best person in the
world; they imagine spending the rest of
their lives happily with that person. But
in Western countries about 40 per cent of
marriages end in divorce. Most Western
people never have to worry about finding
a place to sleep each night, or wonder
whether they will have a meal today.
Compared to most human beings they
have great comfort and wealth. But still
we know that problems like depression,
anxiety and mental illness are common in
the West. If external conditions were the
main cause of happiness, then people in
Western countries should be very happy
most of the time.
On the other hand, we all know
of people who have great hardship in
their lives, but remain happy, strong and
positive about their situation. Examples
are Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned
for many years, and His Holiness the Dalai
Lama of Tibet who, with thousands of
other refugees, had to leave his home, his
country and his possessions after China
invaded Tibet in 1959.
In one family we can have one child
who is naturally very happy and gentle,
and another who is generally dissatisfied
and insensitive to others. Their family
conditions may be very similar, but the
difference in the way they respond to the
world, and their relationships with others,
comes from their mind.
It is useful to reflect on examples like
this and notice similar cases within our
own family, workplace and community –
and in the events of our own life. If we do
this, we become convinced: whether we
are happy or not, mainly depends on our
mind. Mind is the boss. So if we wish to
have more happiness we need to work
on our mind. Meditation is the way of
training our mind so we can experience
greater happiness in our life.
Training the mind in happiness
The more we recognise that happiness
depends on our mind, the more we
realise the importance of understanding
the mind. If we can see clearly through
our own experience which mental states
and habits lead to feelings of wellbeing,
confidence and clarity, and which lead to
confusion, tension and anxiety, we can
begin to take control of our experience. We
become more responsible human beings
more effective at benefiting ourselves
Most people understand that there is
a relationship between cause and effect
as it applies to the body. We recognise the
things we can do to support our physical
health – proper exercise, regular sleeping
habits, a balanced diet and so on. The
same principle applies to our mind. We
cannot experience more happiness, peace
and clarity unless we have created the
causes for these experiences. If our mind
is always full of agitation, dissatisfaction,
anxiety and resentment, those are the
habits we reinforce moment by moment.
We are effectively training our mind in
unhappiness. We don’t want that! It is a
much better use of our time to train our
mind in habits that will make our lives
happier and easier.
Through meditation we train our
mind to be stronger, clearer, more stable
How does meditation work?
There are many different meditation
methods. However, there are two main
types – single pointed meditation and
Single pointed meditation is probably
the type of meditation that is more
commonly understood. Through this
method we still the mind, bringing it to
rest on a single object of concentration.
It is useful for making the mind more
calm, stable and focused, and for
developing deeper insight. A common
type of single pointed meditation practice
is breathing meditation, where the
meditation object is our own breathing.
continued next page
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